It is pretty hard to believe that Larkin and my year in Cusco has already come to an end—it feels like just yesterday we were in Washington, DC with Carrie for our pre-Cusco orientation. These last few weeks in Cusco have been so packed with activity and visitors that it feels almost unfathomable that just two days ago we taught our last ever Chicas Dinámicas class and said tearful goodbyes to our students. All things must come to an end though, and from that the program now has an equally significant new beginning with our 2016-2017 Project Managers Lydia and Alika!
It’s difficult to sum up my year here in Cusco, and I’m sure that it will take weeks and even months after I’ve returned home for me to fully grasp the power of this experience and how it has changed and empowered me. There’s nothing more fulfilling, however, than knowing that the work we do here is truly meaningful, and we see evidence of GSW’s impact every day in so many different ways.
This week was our last week of classes as well as the first week of Cusco orientation for our new Project Managers, and we ended on such a positive note! On Monday morning Larkin and I picked up Alika and Lydia from the airport before heading to Los Nogales for our final English class and final lunch at ‘Fada’—the tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant next to the school that we have really come to love. We then had a day or two to prepare for our goodbyes while we began to show the new PMs what it’s like to live and work here in Cusco.
The first of our big ‘lasts’ came on Wednesday morning at Casa Mantay where we played a lively game of soccer with the girls and said goodbye to them and to the babies. In the afternoon we said goodbye to several girls at Virgen and brought along a classic Cusco cake which mixed very artificial-looking and tasting mocha, orange, and strawberry flavoring…although they are definitely not our favorite desserts, the girls just can’t get enough of these crazy cakes!
Thursday and Friday were when the end finally began to feel real, as we wrapped up our last classes with our girls at Santoni and Los Nogales. Both days we had great games of hockey with the girls, and I am so happy that we got to end our time here by teaching and playing my favorite sport. I had a blast playing with the girls on both days, but Friday was especially fun. I refereed the first half of the game, but then stepped in to play in the second half and got down to business trying to score some goals. Now it’s obviously not a significant feat to score on my own eleven year old students, but I think we can all agree that scoring a goal feels good, whatever the context. Throughout my entire hockey career I was always a defenseman and thus never a high scorer, and so I took to the offensive line in our game with the girls. The idea of spreading out is still a tough one for them, and so I made a point to be far out on the sides as I made and received passes in the hope that the idea would catch on. As the clock ticked down and we got a 30 second countdown from our referee Alika, I hung out on the right far side hoping for a pass, and with 3 seconds left it arrived…I dribbled once, looked up, took my shot, and scored what I like to think of as the game-winning goal (we were actually already up by 2 points…) right as the whistle screeched. The girls cheered, and it was the perfect way to end my very last class with them.
We ended our Santoni and Los Nogales classes with piñatas, which the girls absolutely love, although they can get quite competitive…just more evidence of GSW’s impact! Larkin and I also each bought a Cusco flag for all of our students to sign, and it is a keepsake that I’m very happy to have and excited to take home. Our final moments in each class ended with picture-taking and lots of hugs, and although it was very sad to say goodbye to all of them, I am confident that the program is in good hands with Lydia and Alika and I’m excited to see what they do with the girls in the upcoming months!